England will look to target its fifth straight win in the tournament against defending champion Australia
With just one game to go at the ICC Women's World Twenty20 2012, it is fair to say the two best teams in the sport – England and Australia – will contest the final at the R Premadasa Stadium in Colombo on Sunday (October 7). The rivalry between the two is well known, but what adds to the excitement ahead of the contest is the fact that these two were champions of the first two editions, England in 2009 and Australia a year later.
Before the tournament began, Charlotte Edwards, England’s captain, spoke about the team targetting five straight wins to claim the title. Her side has hardly put a foot wrong in its first four games. The fact that three out of the top five run-getters in the tournament are from England indicates the manner in which it has dominated. After a slight middle-order wobble in its opening game against Pakistan, the top order of Edwards – who leads the run tally with 144 runs – Laura Marsh and Sarah Taylor has brushed aside attacks with ease.
The striking aspect of its game so far has been the adaptability factor. The batters took little time to get into their groove on a slow and low pitch in Colombo after having played in more seam-friendly conditions in Galle. While the semi-final against New Zealand was played on a dry surface offering plenty of turn, the final could be a different ball game, given that the women's final will be followed by the men's clash between Sri Lanka and West Indies.
The pace- spin new-ball pairing of Katherine Brunt and Danielle Hazell have excelled, and the pressure built up has been exploited by the others, especially Holly Colvin, the left-arm spinner whose bowling style has perfectly suited the conditions on offer.
On the other hand, Australia will have the added pressure of being defending champion. Although the winning margin against West Indies in the semi-final was a convincing 28 runs, there were traces of discomfort, especially in the batting department. The way the slow bowlers stifled Australia would have been noted by England’s team management.
And despite getting off to starts, no Australian batter has managed to get to a fifty so far, surprising for a team that has still managed to win three out of its four matches. It will once again be hoping for a good platform from Meg Lanning and Jess Cameron, who have been its best batters through the tournament. Lisa Sthalekar's ability to work the ball around should give it some impetus in the middle order.
The bowling line-up has been in rip-roaring form with Elysse Perry and Julie Hunter being among the wickets. Hunter ripped through the heart of the West Indies batting line-up in the semi-final to pick up the first five-wicket haul of the tournament. Her ability to tie the opposition down with swing and accuracy that makes her a dangerous proposition.
In Erin Osborne and Sthalekar, it also has spinners capable of stepping up. The experience they bring will be invaluable should conditions favour the spinners. Sthalekar’s four overs in the semi-final cost just six runs.
The previous meeting between the two sides came in the group stages in Galle, where England breezed past what most thought would be a matchwinning total of 143. While there is no doubt as to which team is the favourite, the defending champions has both the experience and the ability to upset the form guide.